Constitutional carnage

If you’re a drinker, you should be pissed off right now, because if you’re not, it will soon be the only way you can afford to get pissed.

By June Low (TMI)

Today I got an invitation to join a group on Facebook called Alcohol Consumers’ Rights Group (or “AlCon” for short). The group was set up with the aim of protecting the fundamental rights of alcohol consumers (hereafter referred to as “drinkers”) against sky-high alcohol prices in Malaysia.

AlCon members believe that since drinkers contribute billions to the economy every year, they shouldn’t have to pay so much when they go to the pub (of course, it is pertinent to note that if drinks were cheaper, they would actually be contributing less than they currently do).

All the same, AlCon’s raison d’etre is to lower or maintain the current prices of alcohol at F&B outlets; and oppose any increase in alcohol taxes. Some of the reasons they have set out are as follows:

1.  Drinkers already pay a lot of tax on alcohol — more than any other country in the region. They believe there is no justification for this. Malaysia has the second highest duty on alcohol in the world after Norway, but Norway’s average income per capita is 8-9 times higher than Malaysia. 

2. The high prices cause Malaysians to drink cheap and dangerous backyard brews such as samsu. Many local producers don’t have any safety standards or quality checks so this puts the drinkers at risk.

3. The government has not conducted studies on the impact of price hikes. It feels that the increase of duty will cause many F&B outlets to shut down as fewer people will be drinking. This will increase unemployment.

4. Smuggling and related illegal activities are very high in Malaysia due to ridiculous taxes. Legitimate importers will lose out as a result. There is also the risk of smuggled products being fake or expired.

5. The majority of Malaysians are responsible and social drinkers. AlCon believes that any concern over alcoholism should be addressed via education, not a tax increase. For example: If motorcyclists are killed on the road, the problem is not solved by banning motorcycles.

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